Tuesday, 12 October 2010

parenthood & the art of fearlessness

NAPPY brain. Preg head. 'She's just not as, well, committed as she was.' There are a million ways, subtle and unsubtle, to suggest someone with children is no longer up to her job. There are oddly few to describe the ways in which parenthood makes you work better - not just more efficiently (nothing like a nursery pickup looming to focus the mind), but actually better.
So it was cheering to see the TV presenter Claudia Winkleman identifying one of them in an interview with The Times at the weekend. She said she wasn't too daunted about taking over from Jonathan Ross on Film 2010 because "once you’ve had an episiotomy, you don’t give a toss about anything....That’s what I’ll be saying to myself, as we go live: ‘At least this isn’t going to end in stitches"'. The great unsung advantage of parenthood is, counter-intuitively, a new kind of fearlessness.
The highlight of pregnancy for me was the faintly tipsy feeling some women get in the middle trimester where, tranquilised with oestrogen, all suddenly seems hazily well with the world. I remember telling a friend I wished that feeling could last forever and she rather wisely said: it doesn't, but you will never sweat the work stuff in the same way again.
She was too kind to add 'because you'll be worrying yourself stupid about your kids instead.' But an unexpected bonus of motherhood for me, having been far too uptight about my work all my life, was indeed a more detached attitude. Stuff I wasted too much time worrying about - office politics, the odd story falling through, what other people thought of me - shrank into insignificance compared with the unthinkable prospect of something happening to my son. In a strange way, that liberated me to be a better journalist, to take more risks - something many women are too cautious about. Too much commitment isn't always, professionally speaking, a good thing. Shame they don't tell you that in What to Expect When You're Expecting.


  1. This is so, so true. I remember watching an (otherwise rather hippy-dippy) pregnancy yoga DVD and being told "motherhood and giving birth are about being in the moment" - which means that there's no time to worry about stuff that may or may not happen tomorrow - that job interview, important meeting, or who snubbed you in the staff canteen. And you know that nothing that can happen at work will be as bad as what happened in the delivery suite, no manager will be as demanding as a newborn or as bossy as a preschooler.

  2. Very true. Work crises seem so trivial compared with giving birth or seeing your newborn baby in an incubator. (Mind you, I sometimes wonder whether, if I went back to my old job managing a newsdesk, I would be treating the reporters like naughty toddlers - no Dora the Explorer before bedtime unless they get that story!)

  3. Absolutely. It really puts the office bickering/slippery pole climbing into perspective. Motherhood is a 24 hour a day reminder of what really matters in life. Thanks for the explanation about CB in your last post. Too busy being indignant to apply any actual thought to the matter!